University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Dohner v. McCarthy PC-CA-0030
Docket / Court 83-7587 ( C.D. Cal. )
State/Territory California
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
Inmates at the California Men's Colony (CMC) filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against state correctional officials on behalf of all inmates in CMC's East facility, challenging conditions due to overcrowding. The inmates, represented by ... read more >
Inmates at the California Men's Colony (CMC) filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against state correctional officials on behalf of all inmates in CMC's East facility, challenging conditions due to overcrowding. The inmates, represented by attorneys with the the ACLU's Los Angeles office, specifically alleged that double-celling, conversion of day rooms into dormitories, overcrowding, insufficient staff, deteriorating housing, programs, classifications and facilities violated their rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment. They also alleged a liberty interest in visitation, medical care and work protected by the 14th Amendment. The complaints arose with the implementation of double-celling at CMC to accommodate more prisoners. When double-celling was first instituted at CMC, the facility was running at about 102% of capacity. By June 1985, the population swelled to 159% of design capacity. Further plans for double-celling would have the facility running at 179.5% of design optimum. The inmates sought an injunction that would freeze intake of new prisoners and force the facility to enter into a court-monitored plan to increase staffing.

The District Court (Judge Pamela Ann Rymer) denied the inmates' motion for a preliminary injunction on May 31, 1984. The denial was affirmed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in an unpublished memorandum.

After the class was certified, trial was held in two installments in July and August 1985. More than 50 inmates and numerous correctional officers and experts testified, and Judge Rymer toured the facility three times. Judge Rymer issued her order, with detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law on October 9, 1985 denying relief to the inmates. Dohner v. McCarthy, 635 F.Supp. 408 (C.D. Cal. 1985). Although the court found that ""the inmates at CMC have been and still are subjected to an ordeal which comes close to the brink of a constitutional violation,"" the court nevertheless concluded that the double-celling, overcrowding, medical care, sanitation, food, clothing and safety did not violate the Eighth Amendment. Moreover, the court found that inmates did not enjoy a liberty interest in medical and mental health treatment, work credits or visitation.

The docket for this case is not available on PACER, and therefore our information is limited to the court's published opinion.

Denise Lieberman - 10/17/2005


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Crowding
Crowding / caseload
General
Classification / placement
Food service / nutrition / hydration
Recreation / Exercise
Sanitation / living conditions
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Visiting
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983
Defendant(s) California Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description inmates at the California Men's Colony
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Yes
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

  Managing Prison Conditions-of-Confinement Litigation: Lessons for California Administrators
By: Anthony C. Newland (Golden Gate University)
Citation: (1989) (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Golden Gate University)
[ Detail ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law 10/09/1985 (635 F.Supp. 408) (C.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0030-0001 PDF | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Google Scholar
Judges Rymer, Pamela Ann (Ninth Circuit, C.D. Cal.)
PC-CA-0030-0001
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Hagar, John H. Jr. (California)
PC-CA-0030-0001
Okrand, Fred (California)
PC-CA-0030-0001
Defendant's Lawyers De Nicola, Donald E. (California)
PC-CA-0030-0001
Frederick, Carol S. (California)
PC-CA-0030-0001
Other Lawyers None on record

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